JOHANNESBURG, Oct. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- HIV/AIDS prevalence is still on rise in South Africa and could reduce the life expectancy of South Africans to 46 years, a local researcher warned on Thursday.
To make the situation worse, HIV prevalence among women and among people between 20 and 24 years continued to increase with 29 percent of South African women being infected.
Alan Whiteside from the University of KwaZulu-Natal said there were nearly 6.3 million South Africans living with HIV-AIDS and that "most of them did not know about it."
"The life expectancy in the country would soon plummet from 63 years to 46," he told an AIDS conference in Johannesburg, according to the SAPA news agency.
HIV prevalence in Gauteng, South Africa's most affluent province, is well over 30 percent and that in provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and the Free State is even higher, he said.
Acting Gauteng Premier Gwen Ramokgopa admitted that while the prevalence was not increasing at the speed it was previously, it was still increasing.
South Africa faced three key challenges regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the conference heard. These were prevention, treatment and dealing with the impact of the epidemic.
Whiteside said the impact was not only felt at government level and in the health department but also in communities, municipalities, in the work place and in schools.
He said the impact of the virus would peak in about 20 years when more children were orphaned by the virus.
"Impact on the demographic structure is going to be greatest. The population is going to be smaller and the structure is going to be different. We can't say how, but the population may not reach 50 million," he said.
Official figures showed the country's population is approaching 47 million at present. Enditem